Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just Get the Story Down

Part 2 of:  From Blank Screen to Printed Book OR Writing the Book was the Fun Part...

Writing a book sounds like a wonderful - and rather romantic - thing to do. Imagine sitting surrounded by nature at some wilderness writer's retreat, or maybe looking out the window of an fabulous NY brownstone channeling Carrie Bradshaw, tapping furiously at the keys of your laptop as the perfect words fill the blank screen. I mean, James Patterson publishes three or four (or more) books a year - how hard could it be? 

Hard. I tried it and after several months of start and stop, I stopped for good. Or until my friend Steve asked me to please talk to this independent editor he knew...

I emailed Suzanne Kingsbury www.suzannekingsbury.net, author and free-lance editor, told her my tale and asked if she'd be willing to read the eighty-odd pages I'd managed - in seven months - to get down. She requested a phone call first and we stayed on the phone for an hour and a half, laughing and chatting like old friends. "Now you can send me your pages," she announced as our call wrapped up. 

I sent her an email with my pages attached then sat back and waited. Two days later, we talked again. She loved what I'd written and asked me to put in an email exactly why I'd found writing so difficult. What about it wasn't fun? What did I feel when I sat down to write that made it so hard? It turned out to be an eye-opening exercise. I discovered that my primary de-motivator was fear. I was afraid that what I'd written was awful, that I had no talent whatsoever. And I was afraid I'd put months and months into writing it, only to produce something no one would want to read. I'd been so afraid, I had told almost no one I was writing a book. 

"Classic writer's block," she said. "Just get the story down. This is your first draft, so don't worry about anything but getting the story down. We'll turn it into a book later."

It turned out to be exactly what I needed to hear. I set myself a goal of writing for at least two hours, three days a week. It wasn't long before I was sitting down to write at every opportunity and the words flowed. Suzanne read each chapter and returned only positive feedback, which was hard to take at first. What about all the stuff I was doing wrong? She assured me I would learn this way and that I should just keep doing what I was doing. 

In May 2009, nine months after I started working with her, I finished my first draft. It was almost 500 double-spaced pages and 150,000 words. I figured I'd be ready to publish before Christmas. I knew the manuscript needed some adjustments, but honestly didn't think it would need much.

"Congratulations!" Suzanne emailed when she finished reading the Epilogue. "Now comes the fun part. We get to cut it in half!"


To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. This blog could be a book in and of itself! Loving the story of the journey. Can't imagine writing a book myself so I'll live vicariously through your experiences